Finally, Summer

Popsicle SUMMER! I’m over at SF MindMeld talking about love during apocalypses, along with some other fabulous authors.

Yesterday was the last day of school for the Prince and Princess. Which means the Princess had a math final (poor baby!) and I spent the two hours of the Prince’s last day helping corral a bunch of fourth-graders as they bounced around signing yearbooks and each other’s clothing (and arms, faces, and whatnot) and said their summer goodbyes. The Prince, his teacher and all his classmates will be together again next year–the teacher is “looping up” with her class, which is amazing and awesome. The Princeling loves his teacher with a deep abiding love, and I like her quite a bit as well. I’m pretty stunned by her ability to put up with twenty-odd kids all day. God knows I’d implode into a pile of cinders.

The Prince has had a big year, what with his school burning down and various other things, but he’s come thought beautifully. All the same, this year is the first that he’s actively looked forward to school ending, because, as he tells me seriously with big brown eyes, “I need a break, I think.”

The other big thing is…well, a while ago I gave birth to this beautiful baby girl, and this summer she’s learning to pilot tons of moving metal.

Yep, the Princess is going to driving school. WHAT IS THIS I DON’T EVEN.

It’s an exotic feeling to look at this absolutely beautiful young lady, and think my God, where did the time go, and how did she turn into an almost-adult? She’s got a tangy, sarcastic sense of humor, like mine, and the other day she made her first off-color joke in front of her mother. I laughed until I cried and hugged her. Maybe that was the wrong thing to do? I don’t know. What I do know is that she’s a marvelous human being, and it’s been a privilege to watch and marvel and keep her safe as she grows (mostly) up. (She’s still got some ways to go, but you can see the shape of the awesome adult she’s going to be.)

Most of parenthood is keeping a straight face, and there’s a lot of getting out of the way and letting these fantastic little beings be who they are without your interfering or baggage.The latter is so, so hard. I know I’m nowhere near finished, and that I’m going to be Mom for the rest of my life before I’m anything else…

…but sometimes, I look at where these kids are, and I think maybe I haven’t done half bad at all. Most of the credit goes to them, of course, but I deserve maybe a little for not getting in the way.

*beams*

Oh, Monday

Can you touch your nose with your tongue???... Dear Monday: please stop kicking my ass, I just got up, mmmkay?

Let’s start the week off with FANTASTIC news! The Evil for Crestline Auction is up over $2500 in pledges! And that’s before the second wave of auction offerings! All proceeds will go to benefit the Little Prince’s school, which burned down a week ago. I am completely blown away by the generosity of both those bidding AND those who donated, and those from the ELEW who put the whole thing together. You guys are amazing. Thank you so much.

The Little Prince is settling into his new classroom. It helps a lot that he has familiar faces around him–the district moved heaven and earth to keep whole classes with their teachers, and grades together in the same school. The teachers have been working overtime to organize the classrooms, and there’s been such an outpouring of support, it’s amazing. The Prince did bread down in tears–part of the grieving process–this weekend. He sits on things for a while before they work themselves out, poor kidling. It’s hard to hold your sobbing child and not be able to fix everything. I think it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. *sigh*

This weekend the kids and I took it really easy, since last week was so horrorshow. (New schedules, new classroom, organizing supplies and volunteering…) I did manage to get bookcases put together and ALL my books unpacked. (I plan on maybe shooting some grainy cell phone video of it today. Won’t that be hilarious?) My back is aching and unhappy, but the rest of me is alight with delight. I hadn’t realized how much it bothered me to have my hoard still in boxes. Handling every book yesterday, sorting and alphabetizing, soothed me like nothing else can.

The kernel of my library is the few books that survived my parents’ depredations, lo those many years ago. Then there’s the few of those and others that survived my first marriage. After that I was never in the position of having to chew my own limbs off to leave a place again, thank the gods, and I’ve been building my collection ever since. The scent of paper and ink and binding soothes me, and being able to touch the books–each one a different world that doesn’t judge, or rage, or hit me–makes me feel much more secure. I finally feel like this house might possibly be home, like there’s a root tendril or two driven in. And the kids are happy to see the familiar spines and bindings too. It’s like we’re really here permanently, and it only took six months for me to unpack the bulk of the books. *whistles innocently*

So Monday is upon us again, and I’m going to kick its ass right back. *rolls up sleeves* I’m ready.

You’re Nice Anyway

Compound Eye / Foter

Today, dear Reader, I entered the heart of darkness.

Yes, that’s right. I chaperoned a school field trip.

The Little Prince’s school went on a Dozer Day. We even had sunny weather, a rarity here in the mossy PNW.

The mental checklist went like this: Sunscreen? Check. Fresh first-aid kit? Check! Kerchief and two hankies? Check! Extra travel pak of tissues? Checkity-check check! Hip flask? … Hip flask?

OH DAMMIT.

Anyway. I was responsible for five kids, one of them my own lovely spawn. “Give me the troublemakers,” I told his teacher. “No. Seriously. It’ll be fine.”

And she did, and it was. “What, you think I was born yesterday? Put that back…The limit is two. Not three, four is right out…Oh, honey, he threw sand on you? Come on, let’s get you cleaned up…”

All went smoothly, the only hiccups being losing (and, thank God, finding) my cell phone (this was during the sand-flinging incident) and several pocket checks (“THE LIMIT IS TWO. Look, go hide those for other kids. Hide them so well nobody will ever find them.”) and one regrettable incident involving kids thinking it was a great idea to jump off huge tires stacked, I dunno, EIGHT FEET HIGH? (I put a quick stop to that, thankyouverymuch. The Little Prince’s teacher leaned over and said, “I had my doubts when you said to give you the troublemakers. I apologize.” Heh.)

I got told I was pretty, I got my hand held by every single kid in my little pod, and I got a hot dog for lunch. So it was pretty swell. We didn’t get to the driving of the big construction vehicles–the kids could sit/stand in front of the operator, and put their hands on the operator’s hands while the vehicle did its thing, it looked like a lot of fun. My little pod, instead, got to play in sandpiles taller than yours truly, in which were buried small “treasures” in plastic bags. There’s nothing like seeing a whole elementary-school’s worth of kids descend on a sandpile. It’s got to be one of the wonders of Nature.

Every child was exhausted and well and truly filthy by the time we boarded the buses to go back to school. Sitting on the bus, one of my pod–let’s call him Jerome–turned to me with a huge grin. “You know what {Little Prince’s name} said about you?”

“Nope. What?”

“He said you had a laser eye and you could make a kid behave just by looking at him.”

“Well.” I tried not to smile. “Do you think that’s true?”

“Oh yeah,” he said. “But you’re nice anyway. Look at the stickers I got!”

I tell you, of all the times today I had to keep a straight face, that one was the hardest.

I returned every child I was responsible for in original factory condition, and got to take the Little Prince home early. He had to go lie down, he was so exhausted. No doubt we will be finding sand all over the house (and my laser eye) for days to come. But it was totally worth it.

Even if next time, I am goddamn well taking the hip flask…

On Wordcount, and Snitty Entitlement

Paul Keheler / Foter

I’m not a writer because it’s easy; screw those who think it is. I’m not a writer because I want to live some sort of privileged life, or because I want to be rich, or even because it’s the only thing I can do.

I’m a writer because it’s challenging and I’m good at it. I’m a writer because I want to make things, as Doris Egan has said.

So let’s stop the faux blue collar anti-elitism, and let’s stop talking about the number of words a writer creates a day as some sort of measure of how hard they work. (Harry Connolly)

He’s got a point.

I actually do measure most writing days by wordcount, for a variety of reasons. Chief among them is the fact that it works for me; it short-circuits a number of nasty little voices in my head. Wordcount goals, for me, say “They don’t have to be good words. You can go back and chop and slice and make them pretty later. Get them out now, worry about the quality later.” (No doubt a number of people would snarkily remark that such a view is most likely what’s wrong with my hack work, but oh well.) The wordcount goals get me sitting down, nailed to the chair until I get past “priming the pump” and get into the state that is most conducive to creation. It’s a skill, not magic, and the more I cultivate the habit of writing every day the more magic actually happens. I got (and still get) a lot of flak for saying “writers write, do it every day“, but so what? I truly believe the consistent habit is what will get your writing where it needs to be, and it is your best friend if you want to get published–or just get better. Wordcount goals are a tool, and they may not work for some writers. They may work, but not well enough, for others. The critical thing is to do the goddamn work, and do it consistently.

Connolly’s post is more about the snideness directed at creatives lately, but I’m not going to talk about that. Because frothing at the mouth is tres unattractive on me, and it’s all I would be capable of doing if I started talking about how snitty people get sometimes when a writer is not giving exactly what said snitty person thinks they’re entitled to receive. Instead, I’m just going to wander over into the corner and set up my wordcount for the day.

Over and out.

Underimpressed

Mewling quim“, Mr. Whedon? Really? You’re proud of that?

Look, I like your work, and I even contributed to the Nothing But Red anthology. I was glad to, that post was awesome.

But I don’t think you’re the friend to feminism you’re seen as, and there’s only so far that post of yours will take me.

* Buffy sleeps with Angel…and he loses his soul. Sure, it’s because he’s “happy.” But as yet another instance of a teenage girl’s sexuality turning a boy into a monster, well, it’s narrative ground that’s been tread before.
* Just like the equation drawn in a few episodes of Faith’s aggressive sexuality (Xander, anyone?) being a component of her moral ambiguity and ease of shaking off murder.
* Mal calls Inara a whore, several times, in overt and covert ways…in a society where Companions are supposed to be so “respectable” that the ship wouldn’t be allowed to land without one on board.
* River Tam is so powerful…that her “neurons are stripped,” she’s “crazy” and uncontrollable, and her brother–and Mal–have to save her, over and over and over again.
* Zoe’s physically satisfactory (one presumes) relationship with Wash is cut short by his death, but her (second fiddle and faithful lieutenant) relationship with Mal is kept intact.

And don’t even get me started on the titillation factor of Willow and Tara. This is by no means an exhaustive list of questionable narrative choices when it comes to portraying women, and Whedon’s by no means the only one who does it. I suppose one could blame Hollywood at large–after all, it’s holy writ that any woman who possesses actual sexuality in a studio film must either be horribly disfigured/dead in some fashion (if unrepentant) or brought/remain under the control of a male figure by the end of the film (if properly repentant). (The one exception I’ve seen was The Last Seduction, and that wasn’t a box-office success despite being an incredible movie.) I understand that when one is soaking in a misogynist culture, it’s hard not to obey the tropes and assumptions coded into the very base of said culture.

All culminating in being “proud” of basically calling a woman a cunt. In a PG-13 film. Proud.

My ambivalence just ratcheted up a notch. Not to mention my disappointment.

Interesting Awakenings

fusion-of-horizons / Foter

I’d forgotten what it was like to get up every hour or two during the night with a small mammal desperately needing one’s help.

Well, to be honest, I hadn’t quite. One doesn’t forget things like that, they remain burned into one’s brain and nervous system. It makes for interesting awakenings–one finds oneself halfway across the room, clothes on and reflexes primed, before becoming fully conscious. Or one surfaces in the backyard, ankle-deep in dew-wet grass, blinking and holding a leash.

After a while, you might as well just stay up and write.

Anyway. Yesterday evening, thanks in no little part to Code Boy, who pitched in for sick-animal care so I could fall into the story and stay there for a long while, I finished the first draft of the second Bannon & Clare book, The Red Plague Affair. It starts with poison, sewage, and cardiac arrest; it ends with whistling. In between is plague, blood, murder, Mending, a mass grave, and the Moriarty to Clare’s Sherlock (in an homage-y sort of way). And more!

It’s resting safely with my editor, agent, and faithful trusty beta reader.And now I’m in the snapback phase, which means I should be working on the second in the Tales of Beauty and Madness

…but instead, I’m doing laundry, ministering to the sick mammals, and thinking it would be awesome if I could kill some pixels, and kill ’em good. WoW probably isn’t the best use of my time today, but dammit, I need a break.

Over and out.

Peeing Solo

Lawrence Whittemore / Foter

A lot of people replied to my last post. It’s nice to know that wanting to be alone is something that I’m, well, not alone in.

A significant percentage of people suggested the loo as someplace to go to be alone. I hate to break it to you, but after two toddlers and various pets, peeing alone is not the norm.

The kids are older now, but there were years of having bodily functions witnessed by wide-eyed little humans. First of all, what do you do when you’re the sole childcare provider and you know that leaving the little darlings alone for even thirty seconds of emptying one’s bladder means you may come back to a burning house, a limb lopped off, or something else equally unpleasant? (You think I jest? I do not, sir or madam. Toddlers are ambulatory chaos machines.) Plus, they were fascinated, and that fascination only grew as they became potty-trained. The Little Prince, a decade old now, still enjoys making various bodily noises and waiting for reactions.

I guess he always will.

But that’s nothing compared to cats. For some reason, every cat I have ever owned will decide–for months–that they must witness the Small Room Ritual. Various strategies will be employed, from yowling and stretching a paw under the door, to sliding between my ankles as I step inside, or streaking through the rapidly-closing door and scolding me if a whisker gets caught. With that done, the cat will invariably sit and observe with bright-eyed interest. The kind of interest they give to, for example, small wriggling bits of prey.

If nothing else inspires performance anxiety, being observed thusly by a clawed and fanged animal who will probably be the first to eat your face should you expire alone and unmourned will. And then, they suddenly quit doing it, leaving one even uneasier…until the next time they decide they absolutely must witness said performance again. In case, you know, it’s changed or something? I don’t know.

And…that’s nothing, compared to the dog. Miss B’s cold wet nose is practically attached to my knees all day, and God help both of us should I dare to close the door while performing an evacuation of any type. She has, after much moaning, learned to leave me alone while showering–mostly, I suspect, because she hates being dragged into the shower and washed, because afterward she can’t smell herself and it’s like being blind, OH THE DRAMA AND THE HEADSHAKING AND THE RACING AROUND THE HOUSE RUBBING ON THINGS. But the five to ten minutes spent trying to convince her not to cram herself through the door just can’t be spent when I have, so to speak, business to conduct. And the forlorn wailing outside the door should I manage to sneak into the Small Ritual Room by myself has to be heard to be believed.

I think she’s afraid the flush might drag me with it, and she’ll have to herd the cat with nobody watching for the rest of the day.

Anyway. Peeing alone rarely happens, and the loo is really not the sanctuary it could be. Although, with the way things are, I should probably be grateful there’s no goddamn squirrel in my shower, peering at me while I try to…ummm, yeah.

But that’s another blog post.